I can’t imagine how anyone can view their pets as returnable, especially for unnecessary reasons.  A friend of mine posted two stories on Facebook that shocked me about people perceiving their pets as mere accessories, which can only mean they aren’t loved or part of the family.  I couldn’t surrender my cat, she is a huge part of my sense of home.

I find the concept of pets up for adoption/rehoming as terribly sad.  It pains me to walk past a local cat adoption centre and see pictures of homeless cats.  I don’t know how people can volunteer at such places and not end up fostering or adopting huge numbers of cats.  I am getting increasingly sentimental these days, but the number of cats and dogs up for adoption is staggeringly high and statistics or stories about them can render me a teary mess.  I know in part it’s because people are struggling to afford to keep their pets, but a lot of these poor animals are just no longer wanted or, what upsets me most, have been cruelly treated.

My pet rescuing friend, for whom I have the utmost respect for what she does, put up a story about someone who had surrendered their Yorkshire Terrier.  Why?  Because its owners had had a hardwood floor fitted and they didn’t want the dog’s claws damaging their floor.  May they have a flood and their floor be ruined for doing that to their pet.  The other story was of a Siamese cat who was surrendered because it didn’t match the owner’s new décor.  Seriously, pets are not accessories.  I wonder if the cat owners changed their hair colour to match their precious new colour scheme.

I see a fair few people with husky dogs, most of whom look somewhat pudgy.  I suspect few if any of those dogs get the huge amounts of exercise they need, particularly where the advised hour to two hours of running is concerned.  But, hey, what does it matter, they look cute.  I have had the privilege of being pulled by a husky on a sled in Lapland.  Their strength and stamina is incredible but, oh my, does their poo stink, especially when it’s the dog in front that’s just pooped and your sled runs across it.  Seriously wretch-inducing.   Is that really a non-working, home-living pet?

In 2009, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home had to put down about a third of the dogs it took in, of which more than half were healthy.  Apparently a lot of problems arise with dogs that could be dangerous.  I get angry at the amount of irresponsible dog owners who abuse the capabilities of such dogs, making them potentially violent/dangerous.  These dogs are then part of an image; a “tough bloke” can’t be seen with a cutesy, friendly Staffordshire Bull Terrier for example.  It goes back to my pet accessory point.  That is not how a pet should be chosen.  And when the accessory doesn’t perform, it ends up being hard work/expensive/not colour coordinated etc, people get rid of them.  It’s disgusting and I wish such people wouldn’t be able to have the gift of responsibility for a pet.



{15/02/2012}   Ducks

Ducks.  I am going to dedicate my post to ducks, everything I can think to say about ducks.  There are some standing on a frozen lake outside the window I’m sitting opposite and they’ve inspired me to write about them.
Of all edible animals/birds/fish, ducks are the only ones I look at then want to have for dinner.  It’s quite disturbing.  I do enjoy eating duck.  I don’t like orange or fruit sauce with duck though, I don’t care that they’re supposed to “go”.  I had roast duck the other day, how good is the crispy skin?  And that lovely rich, dark meat.  Eek, feeling slightly barbaric!
One morning, while I was living in Christchurch, New Zealand, I had breakfast sitting on a park bench.  Two ducks waddled over and they sat by my feet.  It was a real bonding moment, they were like two guards.  I vowed there and then never to eat duck again.  But, with duck in mind, I forgot and had duck for dinner.  Then I felt awful.  So I usually spend a little time paying ducks attention when I walk past them, maybe why I am writing about ducks, though perhaps I ought to leave the subject of eating them and focus on their living loveliness.
My friend Kaori absolutely loves duck bottoms when they stick out of the water when the ducks are feeding under water.  I can see why, they are strangely cute and fluffy.  Now I have written this, it sounds a bit odd but maybe, surely, you know what I mean!
I grew up living near Leeds Castle, where we often went for walks.  There are a lot of water fowl there, including Mandarin Ducks.  The male Mandarin Duck is one of the most beautiful creatures I have ever seen, so colourful and handsome.  I still love looking for them when I go there as it’s always a challenge to find them as they aren’t as sociable or common as other water fowl.
There is a little girl now feeding the ducks on the largely frozen lake.  This is reminding me that I used to loved doing that.  If we were on a sandwich based picnic, I would be deliberately messy so I would have more crumbs to throw.  Actually, I used to sneakily break off large crumbs.  See, it was all about the ducks’ welfare in those days!  However, this has also reminded me of the bit in About a Boy where Marcus throws a loaf of bread into a lake and accidentally kills a duck.  Why do all my duck stories seem to end in duck death?

Why is Bombay Duck called duck when it’s actually fish, a lizardfish?  Very misleading.  I don’t like dried salted fish when I’m hoping for roast duck.  Oh, crispy pancakes …

  Ducks quacking makes me think of ponds, throwing crumbs, childhood … and what to have for dinner … (I feel awful but I just can’t not think it when I see or think of ducks!)


About 6am she will sit outside my door (I am asleep at this point) and meowl until she’s let in.  I succumb and she’s on the bed curled up in my arm and is soon snoring.  I am uncomfortable and don’t sleep again.  Izzy has her usual killing/hunting dreams and twitches furiously.  Then, as if she’s just remembered something she should be doing, she leaps up and is gone.  I adjust myself in anticipation of a bit more sleep.  Within five minutes, Shaun the Sheep is next to my pillow and Izzy is by the bed awaiting sheep throwing action.  For about fifteen minutes, I throw Shaun across the room, she pelts after him, rolls on the floor, grabs  him and bunny kicks him (tenderising her kill, I can only assume).  He then gets either thrown back at me or deposited next to me if I’m a little slow responding.

I get up, Izzy wanders around, occasionally returning to the killing fields.  I go into the kitchen, she stands by a drawer where her favourite treats are (a tube of 100% freeze dried chicken) and does the odd meowl.  She will meowl quite a lot.  I feed her, she’s not interested.  She reminds me that she knows what’s in the cupboard.  I ignore her.  It’s more fun to get the treats out and shake them when she’s far away because she will always come running, no matter how deep asleep she is.

While I am moving around, she will gravitate to the nearest rug, flop onto it and put her head under her arm pit, as in this photo.  I think this is her I-am-adorable-so-stroke-me pose.  It usually works.  She will then shed her blond fur over everything I’m wearing.  If she’s really lucky she’ll get groomed with her dog slicker brush.  She goes crazy over this.

She will then, seemingly at random, select one of her many sleeping areas in which to take a rest.  Right now she is curled up in a duvet.  She also sleeps in a cardboard box, a huge plastic bag with an old pillow in it, and any duvets she can crawl under.

The rest of the day will proceed as above unless I cook (for me) chicken or lamb.  These are the only food things that I cook that she loves.  She will also show an interest in porridge or yoghurt if she happens to be passing while they’re being consumed.  By about 9pm, she’s up and about. There is more Shaun throwing, a lot of racing about, a fair bit of meowling and attention seeking and the odd lap-sit.

By the time I am ready to go to bed and shut her out, she is wide awake.  I will close my bedroom door and see her forlorn face as she sits outside my door.  I will soon hear the sound of Shaun’s plastic eyes hitting the wall or floor as she vigorously throws him about, the odd Scooby Doo scrabble of claws on laminate flooring … and then 6 o’clock will come round …

{10/01/2012}   Fear and puffins

It’s 11.25pm, I am struggling to stay awake to write this.  A valuable lesson is that I should write this at the first opportunity, which is often in the mornings when I feel more inclined to write.

My friend Fiona and I went for a walk on top of the North Downs looking over Folkestone. Our walk wasn’t remotely dangerous or scary but my fear of heights seems to be getting worse.  It was a bit muddy going down one slope. There was no sheer drop and with the amount of gorse bushes, it would’ve been quite a challenge to hurt yourself beyond being scratched by gorse and covered in horse poo, of which there was a lot.  But I felt mild vertigo.

I kind of don’t mind having a phobia if it doesn’t affect my daily life, but going for a walk I don’t want to be scared because of an irrational fear of heights or falling.

My vertigo started on a school trip to Cologne when I was about 15 years old.  My friends and I were walking slowly up to the spire.  No problem.  I remember taking a few steps up the narrow spiral staircase and looking down.  The steps had gone from being solid to being maybe iron with holes through which you could, as I remember it, see to the bottom, which by then was quite a long way down.  I freaked out, got verbal diarrhea and I remember shaking furiously as a friend and I descended.

At that time I was regularly doing cross country jumping and I started getting scared and hoping my horse would refuse to do any downhill jumps.  I gave up cross country jumping soon after.  I somehow managed to get to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower on another school trip a few years later . I remember nothing of it, other than that we got the lift and I hated it.

I could and would never go up the Eiffel Tower now.  The fear annoys me no end.  There are things I’d love to do if I weren’t so scared of heights.  While staying on a remote island in the Faroes, I wanted to do a cliff side walk (my fear was a little more reasonable as the path was carved into a cliff, narrow enough for one foot and with a metal ‘rail’ stuck into the cliff at an angle, seriously narrow and not enough room to really be able to stand up straight, ie you’d have to walk down it at a slight angle out to sea). The walk up to the beginning of the cliff walk (I wanted to see puffins. I love puffins) was up a windswept hill with perilous slopes on either side, going down to the sea.  These were slopes off which you didn’t stand a chance of survival.  I was on my own but talked to myself and the many sheep somehow grazing down the side of the cliffy hill. It was also extremely windy.  I managed to get to the relatively flat peninsula from where the cliff path started.  I ended up throwing myself onto the ground, in mild hysterics, shaking violently and feeling extremely sick.  That was my worst height experience. Needless to say, I didn’t get to the edge to assess the cliff side walk, I had enough trouble getting back to what I perceived as safety.

As it happens, I did get to see the puffins as they’d all moved to an area I could manage to walk to.  However, that was the first time it really struck me that my largely irrational fear actually stops me doing things I want to do.

My friend Carolyn managed to fly to Canada after a course of NLP.  She had a dreadful fear of flying and wouldn’t have even bought a plane ticket before that treatment let alone flown to Canada.  I think this could be the year I deal with my fear of heights.  I would then like to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower and enjoy it!

et cetera